High Brow

Oscar’s Evil Twin Found Atop Runyon Canyon

A while ago, we posted an article asking what you, dear readers, thought about the distinction between art and vandalism.  Skating the line, with a very charged political message, is British street artist D*Face who has installed two enormous and menacing Oscar statues atop two iconic LA locations: Runyon Canyon and Mel’s Drive-In in Hollywood.  Both statues have skeleton-like figures with bits of flesh missing from their arms and legs exposing Oscar’s blood and bones.  The one that sat at Runyon had a placard that read “Beauty Is One Snip Away,” while the other at Mel’s Drive-In said “Beauty Is Skin Deep.” They’ve both been removed since they were spotted yesterday morning, but the whole incident begs a whole host of questions, not least of which is: really? Mel’s Drive-In? We get Runyon Canyon, but that’s a strange choice.

More importantly, what do you think of all this? The two most basic sides must be: applause to D*Face for exposing a vanity-obsessed culture at a time when it’s at its most self-congratulatory vs. how petulant of this artist to criticize a sector of popular culture that he need not participate in if he finds it so disheartening.

Posted in Architecture, Art, Bring Your Flask, High Brow, Hollywood, Installation, Low Brow, Personalities, The Social Scene No Comments »

Don Henley is a Visionary?

dirty_projectors-walt_disney_concert_hall15-608x404The last time the Dirty Projectors played in Los Angeles was on Halloween at the Jensen Recreation Center in Echo Park, where frontman David Longstreth wore a ten-gallon foam cowboy hat and his upside-down guitar with the confidence of a newly minted visionary. Fans of the Projectors’ odd, brilliant, shimmering music had been waiting for the band to play at Disney Hall since November, anticipating their breakout hit, 2009’s Bitte Orca, amplified by a lush string section.

But on Saturday night, Longstreth looked small and befuddled on the Disney Hall stage, fiddling with the tuning of his guitars for a half an hour during intermission. Longstreth is 28, with the refractory brain of a brilliant twelve-year-old with attention deficit disorder and the composing abilities of Mozart on mushrooms in Africa. After Saturday night, the audience learned his musical influences include Ligeti, Wagner, Ravel, and Don Henley.

Don Henley might seem like an odd choice. The program notes include an earnest letter Longstreth sent Henley in 2005, accompanying a free copy of The Getty Address, Longstreth’s 2005 opera about materialism, the homogenization of FM radio, and Sacagewea, or something like that. “I have included a copy of it here for you,” Longstreth wrote to Henley. “The album examines the question of what is wilderness in a world completely circumscribed by highways, once Manifest Destiny has no place to go- but in the end it is a love story.” Clearly, this makes sense to only one person: Longstreth himself.

The program was divided into three parts: the Philharmonic playing alone, the Projectors playing The Getty Address along with the ensemble Alarm Will Sound, and the Projectors playing alone. The program began with selections Longstreth hand-picked for the Philharmonic. Highlights included Ligeti’s Etude No. 13, played by gray-haired John Orge, who lingered on the piano keys after the last high notes for a long, indulgent silence, and Ravel’s beautifully orchestrated Mother Goose Suite. After a long intermission, the Projectors emerged, wearing color-coordinated hooded jackets, to play The Getty Address in its entirety. And here is where the problems began.

dirty_projectors-walt_disney_concert_hall32-608x404Truthfully, the opera is an indulgent college project from a very, very talented student, with glimpses of the Projectors’ current, much more successful musical incarnation nestled in like raisins studded into a very wobbly gray oatmeal. In the first song (er, movement), “I Sit on the Ridge at Dusk,” the beat kicked in, and the Projectorettes (Amber Coffman, Haley Dekle, and Angel Deradoorian) wailed “got a world of trouble on my mind,” in an indistinct language, moving very slightly from side to side, like shy sirens. But momentum was lost on the second song, and the album is so complex, the time signatures so twisted, it seemed that no amount of practice could have nailed it down. It didn’t help that Alarm Will Sound had some spotty synchronicity and tuning moments. The long, drifting passages on “But in the Headlights” and “Gilt Gold Scabs” sounded misguided and naked, as though a player were missing. Some members played on wine bottles, and a base flute was involved, as well as lots of gratuitous hand-clapping, which sounded messy at times, perhaps on purpose. Many in the audience began to get restless, but the ensemble soldiered on to no avail.

After the opera finally ended, the Projectors (minus their drummer) took the stage for three songs: a very slow cover of Dylan’sI Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” as well as their own “Temecula Sunrise” and “Cannibal Resource” from Bitte Orca. They sounded good, and Longstreth’s singing sounded much more comfortable, but the band would have sounded much better with a whole orchestra backing them up. None of the women got to sing lead on any song, though Angel Deradoorian singing “Two Doves” would have sounded lovely in this acoustic setting.

All in all, the event demonstrated what the Projectors are capable of musically. It also showed that some misguided musical experiments are better laid to rest, no matter how brilliant their 23-year-old composer may be. As the Eagles said, “And I don’t want to hear any more/ No, no, baby/ I don’t want to hear any more.” Here’s hoping the Projectors stick to Bitte Orca from now on.

By Cassandra McGrath of CWG Magazine

The Walt Disney Concert Hall is located at 111 South Grand Avenue in Downtown Los Angeles.  For more information on upcoming shows, please call (213) 972-7211, or visit www.laphil.com.

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Classical Music, Downtown, High Brow, Low Brow, Music, Neighborhoods, Opera, Performance, Personalities, The Social Scene, Voice No Comments »

The ‘It’s Not To You’ Syndrome

I recently found myself sitting on a couch in a dark room inside the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts at USC watching a play-test of a brand-new interactive video game.  I use the term ‘interactive,’ because it was less like your typical Nintendo or PlayStation proceeding, and more akin to one of those ‘choose your own adventure’ movies, only digitalized, intricately detailed, and not a little influenced by the likes of Spielberg or Christopher Nolan.  The game takes place in a slightly futuristic society, and at one point, the protagonist, a detective, is sitting in his beat-down, windowless office going over clues, when he puts on a pair of special sunglasses.  These sunglasses allow him, and by proxy, us, the audience, to perceive his spacial environment as a pristine mountain-top, or a Redwood forest.  The effect is novel, and provokes a round of ‘wouldn’t-that-be-cool’ comments from anybody who’s watching, yet it also brings up an interesting, modern phenomenon.  I call it the ‘it’s not to you’ syndrome, and it works like this: you’re sitting in a beat-down, windowless office, but…it’s not to you.

Don’t get me wrong, this syndrome is hardly new or original, although it is intensifying in our digital age.  And one person who’s exploring this intensification is artist Jeffrey Wells with his newest exhibit Seeing While Seeing at the Bergamont Station Arts Center, a part of the Santa Monica Museum of Art.  Wells attempts to recreate the optical illusions of everyday life—the after-image of an exit sign, the undulating intersection of two vertical walls that meet at a right-angle—using video projections.  Thus the viewer is left questioning whether or not an illusion is physical or digital.  Both are percepts, separate from what some would call “objective reality,” but only one is an intentionally manipulated percept.

What Wells—along with the interactive video game, to a certain extent—may be attempting to illustrate is the danger of the ‘it’s not to you’ syndrome.  Because how do you really know what is?  Or who’s presenting what to you, for that matter?  And as the line between what is and what is to you gets smaller and smaller, what becomes of you?

Jeffrey Wells’s Seeing While Seeing is on view until April 17th at Project Room 1 in the Bergamont Station Arts Center, a part of the Santa Monica Museum of Arts.  Bergamont Station is located at 2525 Michigan Ave, Building G-1.  For more information, please call (310) 586-6488, or visit www.smmoa.org.

Posted in Art, Conceptual, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Galleries, High Brow, Installation, Mixed media, Museums, Neighborhoods, Santa Monica, Save + Misbehave, Video Art No Comments »

An Education in Moving Pictures

The Academy Awards are upon us.  Like St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Oscar weekend takes over the city of Los Angeles in a joyous display of self-congratulations.  Don’t get me wrong, being from Los Angeles makes it actually required (I believe it’s legally binding) that I watch and enjoy all that the Oscars have to offer each year.  Going into the final stretch before the big show, I feel an annual commitment to seeing all, or most, of the nominated films so that when yelling at the TV, I will be doing so with educated qualms.  The American Cinematheque at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood seems to have similar obligations, which must be why they are setting all of us up this week with a number of programs to get us good and ready for Sunday evening’s broadcast.

Before taking a look at this week’s programs, let’s just be clear – there are ten films up for Best Picture this year.  See whichever ones you feel drawn to; ten is a lot.  If, for example, you feel like you’ve seen District 9 once you finish the trailer, save your $10 or go see The Hurt Locker again.  Don’t be hard on yourself if you haven’t seen them all, I’d bet that there really are only 5 contenders anyway.

Over at the Egyptian Theatre, though, your pre-Oscar education can get underway with Fridat evenings show of Oscar-Nominated Short Films – Animated and Live Action.  You’ll get a chance to see shorts like “The Lady and the Reaper,” “A Matter of Loaf and Death,” “French Roast,” “Instead of Abracadabra,” and my personal favorite “The New Tenants.”

Head back into Hollywood on Saturday morning at 10am (no whining, this is Oscar weekend – we’ve got to get you in shape!) for their Invisible Art, Visible Artists panel with the Oscar-Nominated editors of Avatar, District 9, The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, and Precious.  Stop off for lunch somewhere nearby, but don’t stray too far.  The panel with Oscar-Nominated Art Directors begins at 2:30pm and will give you the chance to discuss your ideas for set design with those creative minds behind The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Avatar, Nine, Sherlock Holmes, and The Young Victoria.

You’re all set and squared away.  You should feel very capable of making some educated bets – not that we encourage gambling… much.  Here’s to the Oscars – LA’s version of a national holiday.  (Good luck making a reservation just about anywhere in town this week, too.)

Click here to check out the Egyptian Theatre’s full calendar of events.

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Portraiture’s Victorious Fight in the Modern Age

ingres38.JPGWhen most people think of portraiture, images of aristocracy adorned in their finest medieval robes atop a crackling grand fireplace in some remote European castle probably come to mind.  When I mention that I focused on 18th-19th Century portraiture in college, people look as if they’re about to fall asleep before I can finish the sentence.  But this past Saturday, I attended a lecture at Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum presented by John Klein, Associate Professor from Washington University in St. Louis, that reminded me of the magnetism and presence of portraits. In his lecture, “Matisse, Picasso and Beyond: How Portraiture Survived Modernism,” he examined the means by which the art of human representation prevailed through an era defined by its antipathy to historical convention.  Through the study of modernist masters like Picasso, Matisse and Giacometti, Klein arrives at a universal truth: human beings will always and forever be obsessed with themselves, others, and how others perceive them.

“Damn Portraits!” began Professor Klein, quoting Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres—an abrupt and honest exclamation that served as a perfect prelude to the difficult battle that portraiture was doomed to fight once the modern age descended on a timeless artistic tradition.  Ingres, like many artists of his time, despised portraiture.

He often complained that the overwhelming number of commissions from high society kept him from focusing on “more important” subject matter.  In the 19th Century, it seemed as if the only demographic that had an affinity for portraiture was the social elite.  When the 20th Century began, many creative figures decried the art form’s declining relevance.  Portraiture posed a series of difficult questions for the artist: How does one capture the complexity of human identity? How can an inner quality be expressed outwardly?  How can a still representation do justice to a personality trait that is defined by its movement? Modernism, says Klein, provided the platform that was so desperately needed: a movement that joined portraiture with the abstraction of the avant-garde.

grn_eyesThrough an array of examples, Klein revealed how artists like Picasso and Matisse were uninterested with the centrality of the sitter, which historically would have been fundamental.  In works like Girl with Green Eyes (1908), Matisse blended his sitters into a decorative pattern where no single component of the painting could dominate.  Picasso’s Gertrude Stein (1906), on the other hand, showcases both the artist and the sitter, serving as a visual statement of the height and legitimacy of both Stein’s and Picasso’s careers. Klein taught the audience that through the execution of her face, as was common with many of Picasso’s portraits, the artist imposed a mask-like quality that hardly resembled Stein’s genuine appearance. The primitivization of her face is a symbolic and telling mark of the beginning of an important aesthetic shift.

After the First World War, artists became increasingly cynical of humanistic values, and rapid advances in photographic technology threatened representational portraiture.  Expressive abstraction began to take hold, providing the artist with infinite ways to communicate power, status and legitimacy—and the line between art and vulgarity became harder to define.  Marcus Harvey’s Myra (1995) is an example of how modern portraiture could become a PR dream come true. Harvey’s portrait of Myra Hindley, a woman convicted of murdering multiple innocent child victims, is comprised of tiny flesh colored hands, hands meant to represent those of the children that she murdered.

180px-marcus-harvey-myraPortraiture’s many levels of expression, as in Myra, have the potential for endless symbolism and emotion.  I could feel the tension in the lecture hall when Myra came on screen, and I could see that the man next to me was trying to conceal his goose bumps.

Professor Klein’s lecture was most certainly a personal highlight of my many years of studying and appreciating portraiture. Regardless of one’s knowledge of art, he was able to communicate his subject with admirable passion and vigor.  Professor Klein carried the double-barreled theme of portraiture and its modernist survival from the turn of the 20th Century through the fall of Saddam Hussein. It was quite frankly one of the most fun Saturdays I’ve had in a while, and I don’t think I was alone.  The jam-packed lecture hall’s enthusiastic applause was proof enough that nobody was falling asleep before Klein could finish his sentences.

-By Brittany Krasner

The Norton Simon’s calendar of educational lectures will certainly expand your art related intellectual repertoire.  For more information on upcoming lectures, please visit their website.

Posted in Art, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, High Brow, Museums, Old School, Painting, Pasadena, Personalities, Photography No Comments »

Extra! Extra! Time to Discover the Kings of the Dance


Glorya Kaufman’s contribution to dance in Los Angeles, and specifically at the Music Center, has already begun to impress.  They recently presented the Joffrey Ballet’s Cinderella and up next, on February 16 – 17, we Angelenos have a chance to see the critically acclaimed Kings of the Dance at the Ahmanson Theatre.

If you haven’t heard of Kings of the Dance, you’ve more than likely heard of its components (hint: some of the world’s most phenomenal male dancers) like Guillaume Cote, Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, and Denis Matvienko.  Spoiled as we are in Southern California, and now by Glorya Kaufman and her welcomed and generous contribution, the performances will also include special guest appearances by Desmond Richardson, Jose Manuel Carreno, Nikolay Tsiskaridze, and Joaquin DeLuz.  These dancers have graced the stage with some of the world’s most prestigious companies like the American Ballet Theatre, Kirov Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, and New York City Ballet.

Admittedly, when you think of ballet, the first images that come to mind are of pointe shoes, beautiful ballerinas in tutus in a perfect arabesque, or dancers with their hair pulled into tight buns and wearing enviable tiaras.  Finally recognizing the beauty and strength of male dancers, Kings of the Dance celebrates these virtuosos in some of dance’s most incredible choreography by such inspiring artists as Roland Petit, Sir Frederick Ashton, Christopher Wheeldon, and Leonid Jacobson.

Because we’re so generous (and because we want to have someone to gush over the performance with), we’ve got tickets to give away!  Enter below to win a pair of tickets to the performance on February 17 at 7:30pm and then let us know what you thought after – we’ve got a good feeling your email will be filled with exclamation points and many synonyms for amazing.

Here are some Extra! Extra! details you’ll want to keep in mind here: by entering into this giveaway, you’re also entered into our next three giveaways! All we need is your first name, last name, and email address, and voila – you’re a connoisseur of dance.  Or, at the very least, you’re on your way to watching some of ballet’s most muscular (er, talented) examples at the height of their careers.

(Click here if you feel like you need to witness what’s on stage and can’t risk the whole giveaway thing.)



                       (valid email required)

Posted in Ballet, Classical Music, Dance, Downtown, Extra! Extra!, High Brow, Music, Personalities No Comments »

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way To The Forum…

Like many students upon graduating from college, I had big aspirations and dreams. In my particular case, my goal was to become an actress, and I was so certain that my name in bright lights was just around the corner. I was the stereotype of the young wide-eyed ingénue. Instead, I found myself sitting in corners of destitute rooms, amongst other actors, waiting to hear my name called for an audition, while clutching a copy of Backstage; the actor’s go-to guide for auditions. How I detested waiting hours upon hours, receiving competitive glares from other actors, only to find out that the part would go to one of my opponents! The worst was when the audition lines would form outside, in hypothermic weather. The holdup of the lines would sometimes be for 10 hours before I could get inside. By the time it was my turn, my lips were too numb to correctly speak my lines and I sounded like an extraterrestrial, which was not very helpful in acquiring a role. Every so often I would land an audition by appointment, where I did not have to wait with the rest of the acting cattle. Occasionally, I would even get a role; small parts in independent films and off-off Broadway plays.

My roles have ranged from a male truck driver, an injured tennis player and a nervous cashier about to get shot in the head, to a catty schoolgirl, a dominatrix, and a young homeless woman. The latter was a great challenge, especially due to my germophobia. When I was given my costume, which consisted of damp sweatpants with suspicious stains, and a smelly sweater with holes, I asked the wardrobe stylist where she found such convincing attire. “I don’t reveal my sources,” she replied. “Great, I’m wearing a dead man’s clothes,” I thought to myself. I wore a unitard underneath, so that my skin would not be contaminated by whatever filthy microorganisms inhabited the “costume.” The makeup artist placed dirt all over my face and hands, and I was asked to wear a grimy hat, at which point I was ready to faint. I wasn’t going to risk catching lice by wearing the suggested headcovering unworthy of its proper name, so I successfully convinced the director that it would be more fitting to the character if I simply messed up my hair and did not wear a hat.

When the time came to shoot my scene, I was given a cardboard box to sit in, which I’m sure was somebody’s stolen home—at least it smelled like it. I held my breath until the director would shout “Rolling!” and in between takes I would leap out of the box. At one point, I was asked to wait while the crew changed the shot, and a passerby threw some coins in my cup. That was the last straw, and at that very moment I decided that I needed to switch roles in life. After the shoot was over, I changed back into my clean clothes and took a cab to a spa uptown for an emergency sterilization, (also known in women’s circles as a mani-pedi), during which I pondered what I was going to do with myself. I’ve always loved to tell stories, primarily funny ones; why not give stand-up comedy a whirl?

My eureka moment had arrived as the manicurist applied a color named “Fed-Up.” The next night I went to Caroline’s On Broadway to watch Susie Essman’s comedy performance. I was so thrilled by the energy in the room, and knew that this was definitely the new path I would take. After the show, I stayed up until wee hours of the morning, jotting down whatever I thought was funny. I began to take a notebook with me everywhere I went, writing down any comical moments I witnessed; I felt like a comedy detective.

Once I had gathered enough material, I called the talent coordinator at Caroline’s to ask if they ever showcased new talent. “It depends, are you funny?” the talent coordinator asked. “That’s what I’ve been told” I responded. “Do you have a tape or a DVD so I can see your material?” I hadn’t thought of that. “No, sorry, not at the moment.” I was asked to go to Caroline’s for an audition instead. The very word “audition” sent a shiver down my spine, reminding me of the agonizing hours spent waiting to enter rooms with discriminating casting directors and their highly arched brows.

I arrived at the club, where Andy, the talent coordinator met me. “Alright kiddo, let’s see what you’ve got.” It was like a scene from a movie, except it was so much better than a movie; there was no waiting around on a set for infinite instants. I was given a few notes and the ultimate seal of approval: a performance date. I exited the club already feeling like a comedian. For my first show, I had beginner’s luck, a roaring audience and resounding applause. I was told by a comedian backstage not to get used to such a feeling because with comedy, it’s hit or miss, and sometimes beyond your control. I quickly learned that the comedy world is very democratic and upfront; you have ten seconds to win over your audience, and if they’re not laughing from the get-go, chances are you’ve lost them.

Unlike the acting world, in comedy you are representing yourself and not a part; which is terrifying but equally as exciting. I love to have control over my material, and I love to represent myself as a character, rather than playing odd and random parts that are not befitting of me. The anticipation before a show, especially the final moments backstage with other comedians, gives me the greatest adrenaline rush. Before my turn to take the microphone, Andy often says: “Kill ’em kiddo!” and being on stage, confronted by an audience, without a fourth wall, feels exactly like a duel, where my only shot at survival is to knock them dead with my humor. There are times when I fall victim to the audience, but when I return backstage, I often get a pep talk from other comedians who have dominated and surrendered to audiences for many more years than I have.

I receive a huge sense of fulfillment when I thrive at making people laugh, and one of the most gratifying aspects of stand-up comedy is to be able to tell my stories, in my personal style and to discover that even when the going gets tough, there is a glimmering group of aficionados who look forward to my turn in the comedy arena.

- By Flavia Masson

Flavia Masson is a writer, comedienne and TV personality based in New York City.

She has performed in clubs such as Caroline’s On Broadway, Gotham Comedy Club and  Comix New York.

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We’d Better Keep an Eye on This One, She’s Tricky…

In an outburst of song, dance, and color, Center Theater Group, Disney, and Cameron Mackintosh present a rare touring production with electric showmanship, mesmerizing production design, and powerhouse orchestration.

On a faint wind of nostalgia, “Mary Poppins” floated into the Ahmanson Theatre with her magic carpetbag of endless marvel.  The excitement was palpable as audience members, old and young (even if it was just at heart), awaited a promise that anything really can happen. No one could disagree that “Mary Poppins’” timing was, for lack of a better phrase, “practically perfect in every way”.

Based on the stories of P.L. Travers and the 1964 Walt Disney Film, the performance features  original Academy Award winning music and lyrics by Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman as well as new music by Olivier Award winning team George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. Director Richard Eyre and Co-Director/Choreographer Matthew Bourne (he of the famed all-male Swan Lake production in London) introduce a kaleidoscope of whimsy that ranges from the over-the-top (a nanny who flies out over the audience and into the rafters with her magical umbrella, then returns to center stage, landing primly atop a chimney) to the old-fashioned (a simple magic trick involving a bouquet that appears out of thin air and a cheeky, knowing smile).

The production opens upon the set of the Banks family household where we find Mr. and Mrs. George and Winifred Banks and their two children, Jane and Michael in the midst of their daily navigation through marital issues and family dilemmas. Kezler is appropriately gruff as a regimented banker, who later finds his compassion at home after his career takes a turn for the worse; Grey and Thomas are the epitome of textbook battiness and childhood curiosity, while Osterhaus is heartwarming as the empathetic mother holding her family together.

The carnival heaves into view with the first act’s “Jolly Holiday”, where the Banks children follow new nanny Mary Poppins (played by Ashley Brown) and an animated jack-of-all-trades named Bert into sidewalk paintings, through pastel gardens, and over rooftops of tap dancing chimney sweeps. Brown plays Mary with the perfect air of self-assurance, and Gavin Lee masterfully harnesses comedic horseplay in his spot-on rendition of Bert. Valerie Boyle’s performance as Mrs. Brill, the Banks’ overly burdened household maid, is wildly entertaining and a definite highlight of the production, and Ellen Harvey as Mr. Banks’ former nanny, the “holy terror” Miss. Andrew, nearly steals the whole show with her operatic performance of “Brimstone and Treacle”.  While each musical act is guaranteed to delight, the second act’s “Step In Time” delivers some serious razzle-dazzle with melodic tap dancing and a jaw-dropping re-creation of Fred Astaire’s gravity-defying “walking-on-the-ceiling” act.

With noteworthy talent (on and off the stage), a little Disney magic, and a pleasantly tolerable amount of cheese, “Mary Poppins” proves to be an all around crowd pleaser and a must-see. If you aren’t already on your feet after the 78th repetition of “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” then you certainly will be by curtain call.

- By Harper Flood

“Mary Poppins” will run through February 7, 2010 at the Ahmanson Theatre.  For more information, please call (213) 628-2772 or click here.

Posted in Dance, Downtown, High Brow, Low Brow, Music, Musical Theatre, Theatre No Comments »

A Decaying Art Form

The job of a film archivist is a relatively new one.  It sounds silly.  (If my friend Pete has a massive DVD collection, is he suddenly considered an archivist?)  But what a lot of people don’t know is that film is a kind of living organism.  It decays quite rapidly over time.  And as depicted so graphically in the latest Tarantino venture, Inglorious Basterds, most of the movies made in the silent-era were shot on an ultra-flammable cellulose nitrate film base.  Due to this highly unstable stock, as well as the recklessness of early studio storage, a great many of the films made in America before 1920 are either lost, or have turned to dust.  In fact, no type of truly durable film base was even introduced into the movie-making landscape until the early 1990’s with the popularization of polyester.

Enter the heroic film archivist, whose job it is to preserve the ever-growing, ever-decaying amount of film stock from the grips of its natural demise.  Mark Toscano of the Academy Film Archive is one of these heroes, who most recently co-curated the REDCAT screening of Now You Can Do Anything: The Films of Chris Langdon.  This series of fourteen short, experimental films were all made within the period of two years, from 1973 to 1975, and would have easily been lost were it not for the efforts of people like Mark Toscano and fellow filmmaker/Angeleno, Thom Andersen.

Yet Langdon’s shorts, interestingly enough, seemed to work in spite of preservation.  The magic was in her apparent disregard for such preciousness.  Her film “Bondage Boy,” for instance, featured 16mm shots of a guy in a basement dressed in a woman’s slip and bound with ropes in various positions, all to the soundtrack of an uppity 1950’s swing tune.  “Picasso,” another one of Langdon’s works, was, in her words, “the first post-mortem documentary” of the famous painter, fully completed in four hours for a little under $5.

Langdon, who was present at the screening, addressed the audience afterwards.  And it was clear that her main motivation behind the 83 minutes of film we had all just sat through was simply to film something.  One piece was a joke, another was a bet, and one was just to get over the plain fear of wasting money through a camera.  In a sense, she was fueling the need for future experimental film archivists like Mark Toscano.  Because without artists with the courage to waste film, why would you need someone to preserve what’s special about it?

The Redcat is located Downtown at the Roy and Edna Disney/Calarts Theater in the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  For information about upcoming screenings and performances, please visit www.redcat.org, or call (213) 237-2800.

Posted in Bring Your Flask, Downtown, Film, High Brow, Low Brow, Museums, Old School, Personalities, Video Art No Comments »

Pop Art For A New Generation

artwork_images_140033_500092_kadir-lopezWhat does pop culture mean to you? The first thing anyone might think is Andy Warhol – largely considered the father of pop art – and his Marilyn Monroe, Campbell’s soup, and Mickey Mouse prints.  On now through February 20 at the William Turner Gallery at Bergamot Station is your chance to redefine pop art for our generation.  Large-scale, colorful prints by two artists, Mikel Alatza and Kadir Lopez are full of color, texture, and familiar faces and things.

Mikel Alatza’s works range from a skull with the Mastercard logo to a clowned, vibrant, contorted painting of Julia Roberts.  Angelina Jolie has been given fire engine red hair and a bright red clown nose next to Paris Hilton whose tan looks even more fiercely dangerous than usual.

Kadir Lopez takes a more muted and almost vintage approach to the pop art world.  His Shell print features a river and skyline fitted within a Shell gasoline sign while his Wrigley’s piece has a distinctly political, textural feel.

Andy Warhol had his finger on the pulse of popular culture in the 70s (we still use the phrase he coined “fifteen minutes of fame” with great frequency) and perhaps its time we find an artist who knows how to transform our current pop culture icons into wild, vivacious prints that speak to us today.  Are you team Alatza, team Lopez, or both?

Mikel Alatza and Kadir Lopez’ exhibits will be up at William Turner Gallery through February 20.  Please call (310) 453-0909 or click here.

Posted in Art, Bring Your Flask, Contemporary Art, Exhibitions, Galleries, High Brow, Installation, Low Brow, Painting, Personalities, Santa Monica No Comments »